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  • 19 July 2023
  • 10 min read

How To Become A Specialist Nurse

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    • Richard Gill
    • Jp Prince
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  • 1073
“The key messages really are to align your professional and academic development to the role early on. Be proactive, network with other specialist nurses, create those opportunities.”

This insightful video is for anyone considering applying for a career as a Specialist Nurse. Experienced nurse and NHS Recruitment & Retention Lead Carol shares her top tips on securing your dream role, from getting to know Specialist Nurses in your chosen field, to preparing your CV and backing up your professional development with relevant courses.

Hi everybody. My name's Carol and I'm a Recruitment & Retention Nurse Lead in Oxford. I'm passionate about nurses’ career development and support, and I provide career conversations as part of my role, to a wide range of nurses at different stages of their career. And that includes nurses who aspire to become a Specialist Nurse. have asked me to give you some advice and some key tips on how to become a specialist nurse, and I'll be presenting some of these tips to help you along your career journey.

There Are Many Career Pathways For Specialist Nurses to Choose

So, you might be looking at a range of different Specialist Nurse career pathways, or you might know exactly the type of Specialist Nurse you wish to become or just have the specialist nursing area that you're interested in.

For example, you could be interested in neurosciences as a specialist area generally, but there's lots of different specialist role nurses in that area. Multiple Sclerosis Specialist Nurse, or Parkinson's Disease Specialist Nurse. And I've interviewed for many of these sorts of roles over the years because my specialism was neurosciences. So, we've all got different career pathways and aspirations.

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Roles And Titles Vary Across Fields, Settings, And Employers

First thing to say is that specialist nursing roles and Specialist Nurse job titles vary greatly across fields, clinical settings, and employers. So do have a look at what roles are being offered and what opportunities are out there.

If you cannot move and need to stay in a certain location, for example, you might have less types of roles, but if you move can move across the UK, you're going to see the vast amount of opportunities and different types of roles.

An interesting paper was from Alison Leary et al: she wrote this widely referenced paper in 2017 linked to this and the authors of the paper found a wide variety of job titles. They actually found 595 different Specialist Nurse job titles were being used relating to specialist roles.

Some Roles Have Specific Proficiencies

Another key thing to note is that some Specialist Nurse roles have specific proficiencies and they're clearly defined, such as a Specialist Community Public Health Nurse role for example. Some required you to have nurse prescribing qualifications and the nursing and midwifery council, or NMC, have standards of proficiency for certain Specialist Nurse roles. You can find those details on the NMC website, for example.

Key information about Specialist Nurse roles is also found on other websites. You've got the Royal College of Nursing website and the Queen's Nursing Institute has some fabulous information and resources about specialist nurse roles in the community.

Try to align your professional experiences and development with academic or professional courses; these will usually be on job descriptions, or you can talk to Specialist Nurses in the roles.

Top Tips

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1) Get To Know Specialist Nurses In Your Chosen Role

My first key tip would be to link to Specialist Nurses and people in those roles that you are aspiring to. You want to gain some insights into what the Specialist Nurse is doing in their day-to-day role, for example. If you don't have any local Specialist Nurses, or you might be working for a small private company, just try linking to the nearest NHS hospital or community Trust and contacting Specialist Nurses. You can usually do that through email.

You can also network nationally and online and use social media to gain insights into specialist roles. You can review national websites such as the Royal College of Nursing or Queens Nursing Institute, as I said earlier. There's lots of videos out there of Specialist Nurses talking about their roles too. The Royal College of Nursing and many national charities linked to Specialist Nurse roles will often have national forums you can attend, and they might have some videos from Specialist Nurses talking about their role.

2) Try To Get Some Shadowing Experience Or Book A Visit

Second key tip is try and get some shadowing experience with a Specialist Nurse to see if that's what you thought the role was. You can talk through what the Specialist Nurse does day to day. Sometimes the reality of the role is quite different to what you think it is.

For example, some Specialist Nurses do a lot of telephone consultations, whereas another role would visit people in their homes. And Specialist Nurse roles can be so different depending on the service needs and what you have to deliver.

It's also very helpful to book a one-off informal visit if you can't secure any shadowing experiences. And in both sort of scenarios, you just contact the Specialist Nurse and ask to visit. Make sure you've got some questions for them when you visit. Write down what they say as it's helpful for future interviews, for example, as you might forget.

You can ask them about the service, what their key responsibilities and what the challenges are in the role. How does that Specialist Nurse overcome challenges? These are the sort of questions you might be asked in an interview.

As I said, you usually book visits in writing, such as just sending an email. Don't be shy, be proactive. Usually, Specialist Nurses are very accommodating of shadowing or informal visits; you could be a potential future applicant for their team.

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3) Review Specialist Nurse Job Descriptions

My third tip, another simple but important thing to do is to review Specialist Nurse job descriptions in the role that you are planning on applying for. This is important. As I said earlier, Specialist Nurse roles can differ, and they can also differ across local areas, institutions, and settings.

Reviewing the job descriptions is really helpful because you can start planning your professional and academic development and working towards that role that you are aspiring to.

You can see what specific professional experience and academic courses this role expects. Take into account what they expect, because otherwise you might not be shortlisted for that role, and you might not be able to even apply. And they won't shortlist you unless you've got the correct experience and the courses that are required to apply. And I speak to nurses all the time who didn't realize they needed a specialist course.

So, for example, if you apply for a neuroscience specialist role, you might have to have a neuroscience course and there are differences across Specialist Nurse roles depending on the banding of the role as well and what you have to deliver. So, checking out the job description really helps clarify that.

4) Prepare A Strong CV And Personal Statement- The Earlier, The Better!

My fourth tip is to start strengthening your CV and your personal statements early on, so you align your experience to the Specialist Nurse role. And then you can show you are actively interested in the role and employers often have lots of applications for specialist roles.

And you want your CV and your application to stand out. For example, as a Multiple Sclerosis Specialist Nurse, they might expect you to run patient support groups and to deliver specialist education to patients. And the advert may state you must already be actively contributing to supporting patients with multiple sclerosis in some way. And you might need to have completed a post registration course like an MS short specialist course. It just depends on the role, and they may expect you to keep up to date in the area by attending national conferences on multiple sclerosis.

The key messages really are to align your professional and academic development to the role early on. Be proactive, network with other specialist nurses, create those opportunities.

5) Back Up Your Professional Experience And Development With Academic/ Professional Courses

My fifth tip, which also links to tip four, is to try to align your professional experiences and development with academic or professional courses. It really helps you to reach your goals. So specific courses linked to the specialist area will usually be on job descriptions, or you can talk to Specialist Nurses in the roles.

The roles are often very competitive, and you can probably see how these tips are sort of interrelated. Having the experience and qualifications you need helps you, and by networking and speaking to people in the role, you'll realize what you need to be able to apply and looking at those job descriptions. You can also start to align your current role early on towards a Specialist Nurse role if you know that this is the career pathway you want to pursue.

Other things that you can do early on would be aligning current development and experiences, such as creating a specialist learning materials for patients or learners or acting as a practice supervisor to students where you are developing your teaching skills. Because if you think about it, you've got to support patients or carers, for example, and you have to give patient information as a Specialist Nurse. So having those educational skills is good to demonstrate and having them developed in your current role.

Try and join local and national networks as well linked to the role. Keep up to date with those conferences, even attend study days in the related area. Try to link with quality improvement programs, projects, or initiatives as well in the specialist area. You could observe or become part of the team that's developing practice in that specialist area. And, as I said, all of this helps to develop that CV and personal statement.

Then you've also got practical examples that you can give when you're interviewing. As I said earlier, by networking with Specialist Nurses, it'll really help you and they can advise you as to where you can get involved as well. And they might offer you some links with that specialist role. It's about being proactive and creating those opportunities through the networks you make.

Good Luck!

So, I hope this video was helpful to some viewers out there. The key messages really are to align your professional and academic development to the role early on.

Be proactive, network with other specialist nurses, create those opportunities.

And finally, I wish you every success in your future nursing career and for any specialist nurse roles that you apply for.

Good luck.

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About the author

I am a Divisional Recruitment & Retention Lead at a NHS Foundation Trust, leading recruitment/retention initiatives, providing structured career advice and clinical supervision. I worked as a Registered Nurse for 35 years and as a Lecturer Practitioner for 22 years, leading 3rd year adult nursing modules and a post-graduate masters in neurosciences course. I published 2 nursing books for nurses’ career development and create vlogs to advise nurses. I’m a 4th year PhD in Nursing student.

    • Richard Gill
    • Jp Prince
  • 0
  • 1073

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